It was a gust of wind that took down an old outbuilding last week in rural Polk County, Nebraska. But from above, you might swear it was the work of a dragon.
When Polk County Rural Public Power District’s Yancy Krol arrived at the incident site, the line technician noticed burn marks on the ground near the fallen-but-still-energized 7,200-volt power line, which had been attached to the building. It wasn’t until he’d de-energized the line and gone up in his bucket truck, though, that he saw the full eerie pattern.
A 50-foot-long jagged scar marked the ground, with 3,000-degree heat from the power line scorching the nearby grass and causing the soil to melt into glass. Krol immediately snapped a few photos with his phone.
“It looked really neat from above, and I thought a picture would be a great way to teach safety lessons because most people don’t get a chance to see the power of high-voltage electricity,” said Krol. “It always finds the most direct path to ground.”
Wade Rahn, Polk County RPPD’s customer service and information technology manager, said the dragon’s breath-like damage is a good safety reminder for members.
“We always stress to stay away from a down power line as they may still be energized,” he said.
NRECA’s Chief Scientist Emma Stewart explained the phenomenon:
“The electricity took the least resistance path to ground, and unusual moisture and soil conditions likely contributed to the unique burn pattern,” melting the soil, she said. “The grass contained the exact moisture level to burn a pattern—but not ignite fully past that.”